A report from the Maldives News / Dhivehi Observer, October 16, 2009
The President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, and his ministers will be holding the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting tomorrow, Saturday 17 October, to draw global attention to the pressing issue of climate change.
Famed for its first-rate diving, the Maldives stands at the frontline of the climate change battle. To call attention to their country’s plight, ministers will use hand signals and slates to communicate to ratify a statement calling for rapid greenhouse gas reductions. The statement will be presented at the landmark UN climate change talks in Copenhagen this December.
Ministers have been taking scuba diving lessons with help from Divers Association Maldives (DAM) and will be awarded a PADI Discover Scuba certificates at the end of their sessions. President Nasheed is already a PADI Advanced Open Water diver.
“The ministers are fairly comfortable in the water particularly given that they’ve just started diving,” said Zoona Naseem, president of DAM and a PADI staff instructor. “None of ministers have ever been diving before except the defense minister and all of them are very enthusiastic.” Three of the ministers have expressed an interest to train for their PADI Open Water diver certificates.
The underwater meeting is part of a wider campaign by international environmental NGO 350.org.
350.org is calling on political leaders to commit to deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at Copenhagen. The world’s top climatologists, such as James Hansen of the NASA/Goddard Institute, caution that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide must return to the safe threshold of 350 parts per million if catastrophic global warming is to be avoided. Levels currently stand at 385ppm.
The 350.org campaign will cumulate in a global day of environmental action on 24 October. In the Maldives, 350 divers will stage a 24-hour, underwater climate protest in the Male’ lagoon. Local Maldivian NGOs will send 350 ‘Postcards from the Frontline’ to world leaders and an environmental activist will sail from Male’ to the airport island in a raft made from 350 empty plastic bottles.
After the underwater cabinet meeting on 17 October, President Nasheed will hold a press conference, where he will call for carbon dioxide reductions commensurate with the 350 target.
President Nasheed has often warned of the dangers climate change poses to the Maldives – a country so beautiful it has reached the final of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’ competition.
As the President recently remarked: “If we can’t save the Maldives today, we can’t save London, New York or Hong Kong tomorrow.”